I-Team: Is your gas appliance dangerous?

The News Center 7 I-team’s review of studies showing gas appliance’s chemical emissions could have harmful health effects, revealed differing opinions about the warnings.

The well-known nonprofit energy group Rocky Mountain Institute’s Gas Stoves: Health and Air Quality Impacts and Solutions study says gas appliances, like stoves, are indoor air pollution sources emitting gases like nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and formaldehyde.

“A lot of pollutants coming from cooktops are toxic and invisible, many of same pollutants that come from tail pipes,” Rocky Mountain Institute’s ‘Carbon-Free Buildings’ Manager Brady Seals told the I-Team.

The RMI study says those pollutants can have negative health effects, often exacerbating respiratory conditions, like asthma. The report says children are more susceptible to illnesses associated with air pollution than adults.

That RMI study comes as three doctors’ New England Journal of Medicine article, The False Promise of Natural Gas, says natural gas’ cumulative negative health, environment, and economic consequences mean all new gas appliance sales should be stopped.

“We also recommend that new residential or commercial gas hookups not be permitted, new gas appliances be removed from the market, further gas exploration on federal lands be banned, and all new or planned construction of gas infra-structure be halted,” the doctors wrote.

Citing the study, the RMI’s Seals went onto say, “Children who live in home with gas stove have a 42% increased risk of having asthma than children who live in homes with electric stoves. That’s nearly one in two children.”

“We have a son who has asthma, so I started to do some more reading.” Greene County’s Jason Praeter, who only recently became aware of the potential health concerns, told the I-Team’s James Brown.

The federal government estimates about half of all Americans, like the Praeter family, cook with natural gas.

WHIO took these concerns to the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, OOGA, which represents more than two thousand Ohio oil and gas development companies

“We disagree with what they are saying,” OOGA spokesperson Mike Chadsey said of The New England Journal of Medicine’s report.

“I read the journal article I wasn’t impressed with three individuals who wrote that,” Chadsey added.

About 40 California cities and towns have now banned natural gas in new construction. Starting in June, any new buildings and homes in San Francisco must also all be electric. Gas appliances will not be allowed.

“The easy answer there is Ohio is not California,” Chadsey said. “We are proud of long and rich history of coal development, oil and natural gas development. And we know because science tells us natural gas in part of climate change solution, not part of climate change problem.”

With 320,000 West Central Ohio natural gas customers, WHIO repeatedly attempted to interview someone from Centerpoint Energy, the parent company of the Miami Valley’s largest natural gas supplier, Vectren, about natural gas appliance concerns.

Previously, WHIO reported in the Dayton area, Vectren is spending tens of millions of dollars to replace hundreds of miles of main gas lines and lines to peoples’ homes and businesses.

Despite seeking comment more than one dozen times starting in April, Centerpoint Energy did not respond to the I-Team.

However, down in one of the country’s largest natural gas consuming states, Oklahoma Natural Gas Spokesperson Dawn Tripp did share a very different point of view with the I-Team.

“We do not support some of the recent claims that have been published. In fact, we assert natural gas is safe to use for a range of household appliances. It increases energy efficiency, and it helps reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions,” Tripp said.

“The U.S. EPA, as well as Consumer Product Safety Commission, have not identified any health risks with operation of natural gas appliances and concerns for indoor air quality,” Tipp added.

However, when the I-Team checked, the EPA said in an emailed response, “Gas stoves...can be sources of pollutants called combustion products, which can include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particles.”

One thing most in this debate seemed to agree on is increasing kitchen ventilation while cooking.

The EPA says make sure gas stoves are properly installed, well-maintained, and vent hoods are used. If homes do not have a hood, the EPA says open a window.

“When you look at exposure limits, that limit you to just mealtime,” OOGA’s Chadsey added.

With their son who has asthma in mind, Jason Praeter and his wife are talking about the research, and if they might one day switch to electric.

“If she wants to, absolutely we will,” Praeter said.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every home have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on each level outside each sleeping area.

In addition, CPSC urges consumers to have an annual professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances -- including furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, water heaters, and space heaters -- to detect deadly carbon monoxide leaks.

For more about these recommendations, click here.

For more information on how carbon monoxide impacts indoor air quality, click here.